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Does Russia have workplace safety and occupational health standards for workers and miners in mining industry regions?
The legislation on workplace safety standard was introduced a relatively short time ago in Russia, on Jan.
Expert: Prepared by Natalya Fedotova The legislation on workplace safety standard was introduced a relatively short time ago in Russia, on Jan. 1, 2010, said Kira Koruma, head of the litigation and arbitration practice at Yakovlev & Partners Law Offices. Under Article 212 of the Labor Code, the employer must ensure compliance with safety requirements at every workplace. Russia also has national standards and production process specific standards. “As far as coal-mining specific workplace safety standards are concerned, no such document has been approved to date,” said Koruma. At the same time, keep in mind that compliance with workplace safety standards became mandatory only a short while ago. A number of laws have been enacted over the past few months to ensure legal protection for miners. “In particular, a law stipulating an increase in economic liability for coal-mine owners has been passed, as well as a law mandating terms and conditions for decontaminating mines. In addition, a number of other bills has been drafted and submitted to the State Duma and the Federation Council, which among other things introduces amendments to the Labor Code by legislating regulation of employment for workers involved in subsurface operations,” said Irina Yesipova, adviser to Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko. Russia’s energy strategy to 2030 includes a provision to improve labor productivity in coal mining while introducing global standards in industrial security and workplace safety, as well as environmental safety during coal mining and preparation operations. This is in addition to industrial scale output of coal deep-processing products (such as synthetic liquid fuel, ethanol, etc.) and associated resources (methane, subsurface water, and construction materials). Anatoly Yanovsky, Russia’s deputy minister of energy and industry, admits that workplace injuries in the coal industry are still more prevalent in Russia than in countries such as India or Poland. That said, there is a trend towards a reduction in injuries. As opposed to during the Soviet era, when the coal industry lost one miner for every million tons of extracted coal, deadly injuries today have been reduced to 0.19 per million tons. In order to upgrade industrial safety, the Long-Term Program for Coal Industry Development until 2030 envisions the development of a special Sub-Program for Ensuring Industrial and Environmental Security and Workplace Safety in the Coal Industry. At present, the fundamentals of state policy in mining (processing) and use of coal (oil shale) are regulated by the Federal Law “On State Regulation in the Area of Coal Mining and Use, and Particularities of Social Security for Coal Industry Workers.” According to this law, coal miners are eligible for therapy and regular medical check-ups at least once every two years; they are also entitled to medical treatment of diseases caused by working in mines. In 2007, the Ministry of Health and Social Development approved standards for issuing free certified work clothes and boots and other means of personal protection to workers employed at coal and shale mines, open pits, and companies that are active or under construction.
Now that Russia has embraced the corporate governance principles promoted by the OECD, to what extent will they apply to the local reality? Will they serve Russian society well?
The cooperation between Russia and the OECD, which dates back to 1999, clearly benefits both the business community
Expert: The Nov. 17 meeting of the OECD Public Governance Committee in Paris will look into Russia’s track record of compliance with the Organization’s principles, according to OECD Russia office advisor Natalia Vishnevskaya. Although the OECD’s own standpoint on the matter is unknown at this point, Russian experts believe many OECD rules have become part of Russia’s business ethics code. The cooperation between Russia and the OECD, which dates back to 1999, clearly benefits both the business community and the state, according to Igor Repin, Deputy Executive Director of the Investor Protection Association. For example, amendments to the brutal bankruptcy law in the early 2000s helped save a lot of healthy manufacturing businesses for the Russian economy. Police units no longer participate in hostile takeovers of companies, as was often the case in the late 1990s. And the Central Bank’s directive requiring banks to disclose ultimate beneficiaries on their websites, in effect since the beginning of this year, is designed to fight tax evasion. These are all practical examples of implementation of the OECD recommendations, Repin said. He also believes arbitration court judges have become more efficient and professional. “Back in the 1990s, judges still had a socialist mindset and sincerely had no clue as to why they should defend private property,” said Repin. The adoption of corporate governance codes, which Russian businessmen knew little if at all before the dialogue with the OECD began, is obviously yet another positive signal to investors. Andrei Yakovlev, director of the Institute for Industrial and Market Studies at the Higher School of Economics agrees that Russia’s business climate has improved during the cooperation with the OECD. He believes that in terms of corporate governance, existing Russian law is more or less in line with OECD standards; it’s in the enforcement area that major issues persist. Igor Repin points out that, for example, that the chapter Ensuring the Basis for an Effective Corporate Governance Framework contains a paragraph requiring that supervisory, regulatory and enforcement authorities should “fulfill their duties in a professional and objective manner … and their rulings should be timely, transparent and fully explained.” Unfortunately, the situation is far from perfect in this regard. Things are somewhat better as regards appointment of independent directors to the boards of state owned companies. This happens all the time in Russia today, with 600 people already fulfilling this role. “This is phenomenal,” says Repin, before adding that “nominally independent directors of major companies occasionally turn out to be affiliated with the management.” “There’s still a long way to go obviously, but this ultimately serves our interests,” says Boris Titov, Chairman of the Delovaya Rossiya association of small and medium businesses, sharing his view on the quality of corporate governance in Russia. He thinks the business community doesn’t yet see much value in things like social reporting or environmental audits. That said, companies that are getting ready for an IPO or trying to borrow at more attractive rates abroad are already doing this – not because the OECD mandates it (it doesn’t), but because they can see the benefits. “We are doing exactly the same,” says Boris Titov, who serves as Chairman of the Board of the Abrau-Durso champagne producer. He is also confident that sooner or later, the benefits will be hard to resist for all involved.
Does anyone know what Russia's visa policy will be for the Sochi Olympic Games?
If you do not have International Olympic Committee accreditation, but still want to come witness the Sochi Games
Expert: If you want to visit the Sochi 2014 Olympics, do not worry about all the visa red tape: special regulations will be in effect during the Games, according to Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee. Different rules will apply for the participants and guests of the Sochi Olympics. Those accredited for the games, including athletes, coaches, reporters, volunteers, and service personnel, will be able to come to Russia under Olympic standards set up for the games. Accreditations issued by the International Olympic Committee will serve as visas for the games, so instead of showing a conventional visa at passport control when entering the country, these people will show their accreditations. This rule applies for all Olympic Games. About 100,000 people were accredited for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics; a higher turnout is expected for Sochi, including 25,000 volunteers alone. Given the scale of paperwork involved, accreditations will need to be requested well in advance in order to avoid any problems. If you do not have International Olympic Committee accreditation, but still want to come witness the Sochi Games in person, there is another “simple” option at hand: join the army of Olympic fans. The list of entry documents for Olympic fans will be announced at a later time leading up to the games; the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for ironing out all the details involved. It is clear already, however, that these fans will enjoy special treatment. The law “On exiting and entering the Russian Federation” stipulates that the president has the right to simplify visa procedures should this be in the state’s interests, said Nikolai Dudoladov, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Entry Department. The relevant amendment was passed in 2008, two weeks before the UEFA Champions League Final in Moscow, in which Chelsea played against Manchester United. The president exercised his new right immediately, facilitating visa-free entry for over 40,000 British fans who, instead of a visa, had to present the following documents at Russian checkpoints: their passport, ticket for the match, return flight ticket and a completed migration card. The special visa regime was in effect for three days. When granting the president the right to simplify visa requirements, lawmakers pointed out that the same could be done for the 2014 Olympics. Detailed regulations will be elaborated on leading up to the games, but with Russian presidential elections scheduled for 2012, it is not clear exactly who will have the right to enforce them. Konstantin Poltoranin, spokesman for the Federal Migration Service, said there will not be any visa problems for guests attending the 2014 Olympics guests, given past experience. “Fans took charter flight and buses to the Champions League final, and no problems came up,” he said. This plan could also be used in Sochi. Federal Migration Service officials are not worried about illegal immigrants, since they expect tourists coming for the games to leave once they are over. It is unlikely anyone will be looking for trouble at the border. And even if some fans, overtaken by emotions, lose track of time and stay a day or two longer, it will not be a big deal, Poltoranin said. Any such “perpetrators” will most likely get off with a warning. Longer delays could be punished with a fine for breaching visa regulations, which is currently at between 2,000 and 5,000 rubles. Only if a visitor is taken to court for violating the entry rules could he or she be expelled from the country, with restrictions on future entry. Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation: MID.ru Russian Olympic Committee: Olympic.ru